Pulse of the Primary: 2021 NYC Mayor’s Race, presented by Fontas Advisors and Core Decision Analytics, released its first set of poll results on February 10th. The first in a series of three polls, this iteration of the Fontas/CODA poll aimed to set the stage on the issues and attitudes of the likely voters in the June 22nd Democratic primary and gauge current awareness and sentiment of the leading candidates.
“New York City is at a crossroads and the election of the new mayor will be a pivotal milestone in our recovery from the pandemic and the resulting economic devastation,” said George Fontas, Founder and CEO of Fontas Advisors, a leading NYC-based government affairs consultancy. “Our poll found that New Yorkers seek mayoral candidates who offer clear plans to tackle the many pressing issues facing the city, and voters especially value proven experience demonstrated in government or the public sector.”
“Our survey shows that voters are concerned about the many challenges facing the city, though their pick for mayor is still quite fluid at this time,” said Adam Rosenblatt, President of Core Decision Analytics (CODA), a non-partisan national public opinion research and analytics firm based in Washington, DC. “Awareness appears to aid three candidates as of late January, though the vast majority of voters are unfamiliar with the wider set of prominent candidates running.”
COVID Dominates the Issue Landscape
This first Fontas/CODA Pulse of the Primary Poll suggests that the COVID pandemic will be the dominant issue on the campaign trail.
57% of likely voters said “the pandemic caused a significant negative impact on my household finances.” (26% strongly agree + 31% somewhat agree)
47% indicated that “If I had the ability, I would consider moving out of NYC permanently.” (19% strongly agree + 28% somewhat agree)
When presented with a list of nine major topics frequently discussed on the campaign trail, nearly half of voters (49%) said the “most important” issue to them when considering the candidates relates to COVID: health aspects (30% “preventing the spread of COVID / vaccine distribution”), as well as economic aspects (19% “reopening the economy / job creation”).
The Mayor's Race
Three candidates presently realize strong awareness. Four in five NYC likely voters (84%) indicated that they have heard of Andrew Yang. He is likely a familiar name to many Democrats given his prominence during the 2020 presidential primary, though it is also worth emphasizing that this survey was conducted in the wake of Yang’s campaign launch and heavy media blitz. Three in five voters say they have heard of Scott Stringer and Eric Adams (66% and 60%, respectively).
Boosted by strong awareness, Andrew Yang appears to lead in the “horserace” question, followed by Eric Adams and Scott Stringer. By design, the Fontas/CODA Poll’s “horserace” question included a short description of the candidate, aiming to simulate what voters might hear, read, or see if the candidate were described in the news. Andrew Yang (described as “entrepreneur and former Democratic presidential primary candidate”) drew support from one in four likely voters (28%). “Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President” and “Scott Stringer, NYC Comptroller” were closely tied with the support of 17% and 13% of likely voters, respectively. One in four likely voters (23%) indicated a preference for one of the other six candidates presented. Meanwhile, essentially one in five voters (19%) said they were undecided.
Voters value having a plan plus government experience. Voters said the most important attributes they consider when evaluating candidates for mayor were someone who has a “detailed plan on an issue [they] care about”, a “broad plan of many issues”, as well as “proven experience in government / public sector.” These attributes rank very high, with over 90% of voters valuing each of these attributes. By contrast, voters placed significantly less importance on someone who has “proven experience in business / private sector” or even “has held elected office before.” Whereas 72% said proven government / public sector experience was “extremely or very” important, only 44% said the same regarding proven business / private sector experience, and 39% for prior elected experience.
NYC likely voters are overwhelmingly unaware of the new ranked choice voting process. 88% of voters indicated that they have not heard “a lot” about ranked choice voting. Fully one-third (34%) said they have heard “nothing at all.”
“The lack of awareness concerning ranked choice voting is worrisome,” said Rosenblatt. “This process is likely to be a major factor in the race for mayor and other offices, yet 9 in 10 voters are in the dark. We will examine this closely in the next survey since ranked choice will influence how campaigns communicate as they attempt to persuade New Yorkers to cast a ballot for more than one candidate.”
“While this is where things stood in late January, it’s essential to remember that there’s five months of campaigning still ahead and most voters are just starting to recognize the significance of the June Democratic primary in determining our new mayor,” said Fontas. “Awareness is still low for many of the candidates, endorsements have just begun, and, for the most part, retail campaigning has yet to kick off — although candidates will need to utilize different tactics this year due to the pandemic. Our next poll will present a great opportunity to assess how the race for mayor is progressing.”
Pulse of the Primary: 2021 NYC Mayor’s Race will release continued polling results and analysis leading up to the June 22nd Democratic primary. Subscribe here to receive our updates.
Core Decision Analytics (CODA) conducted N=842 online interviews among New York City Democratic primary likely voters from January 20-25, 2021. The overall margin of error is +/-3.38% at the 95% confidence interval. Some percentages may add to more or less than 100% due to rounding. The complete poll report, including all survey questions, screening criteria, and demographics, are available here.